This film knows its audience, which will likely be comprised of the beloved 1983 original's nostalgic fans. A Christmas Story Christmas caters to them with flashbacks, updated storylines and characters, and an ending that comes full circle back to the original.
The film's highlights are some very smart commentary on family, love, and loss, particularly around the death of a beloved character. "Nothing can prepare us for one of life's most painful and inescapable events," Ralph tells us in voice-over. Another gem: "Attics are museums of indifference."
The reflections make you believe Ralph could be a great writer, as he dreams. He also still has a comically wild imagination, like when he envisions an Old West-style snowball showdown or a Norman Rockwell-esque family magazine spread. A scene where family members go to great lengths to avoid opening the door to carolers is very funny.
You don't have to have seen the earlier films to appreciate or enjoy this one. Set in 1974 (the original took place in the 1940s), this is a time when kids play with axes, they're told to solve their problems on their own, mothers-in-law mercilessly tease their son's wives, and men avoid their families at downtown bars.
Some of this humor can be funny even while feeling anachronistic, but other scenes evoke more cringes than cackles, like when we're meant to laugh at people getting seriously injured or when kids who are bullied turn into bullies themselves.
Through it all, Ralphie remains a sympathetic character, an everyman hero who triumphs at the important things: family, friendship, and fathering.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros.